Unless you are a licensed diagnostician, there is a bit of mystery surrounding the purpose, the content, and the meaning of the results of IQ tests. Please keep in mind that an IQ test is just a measure of someone’s ability to answer questions and perform tasks, on a particular day. There are many factors that affect one’s ability to successfully complete an IQ tests and those factors do not necessarily have to do with intelligence. The intent here is to bring the weight and value of an isolated test into a balanced perspective.

IQ and intelligence are not synonymous.

An Intelligence Quotient (IQ) is merely a score indicating the relative position of the individual tested to others in the norm group whereas intelligence is a theoretical construct defined and measured in many different ways.

Intelligence tests do not measure all aspects of an individual’s abilities.

Tests are only a sampling of an individual’s skills and not all skills are sampled by one test. For example, some IQ tests heavily rely on verbal abilities, but others measure nonverbal abilities such as visual reasoning and problem solving.

Furthermore, many IQ tests are timed and thus, measure processing speed rather than knowledge. Children that work methodically, over analyzing every question or those with difficulty focusing for extended periods of time, do not perform well on timed tests, are  penalized for lack of speed resulting in a lower IQ score.

Intelligence tests do not predict outcome in life.

IQ tests are fairly successful at suggesting how well an individual will achieve in school. They are better at predicting success at the elementary level than high school level. However, in school as well as in life, success depends on other factors such as effort, motivation, persistence, and common sense. People may score high on intelligence tests but may not behave very intelligently, whereas people scoring low on IQ tests may be quite successful in life (i.e. emotional intelligence).

IQ scores are not necessarily fixed or permanent.

They may change in the course of development due to environmental, medical issues, advanced education, and other factors. For example, IQ test results may vary depending on the rapport established between the evaluator and the child, indicating whether or not the child was relaxed and able to perform his/her best. If a child is experiencing high anxiety during the testing session, scores may be deflated, resulting in a lower IQ score.

IQ scores are not perfectly reliable.

All tests have some measure of error.  If a student achieves a score of 100 on an IQ test and the standard error of measurement is 10, the child’s score will fall between 90 and 110 if he is tested again using the same instrument. The standard error of measurement is large enough to actually change placement decisions in schools that still emphasize IQ scores.

Intelligence tests are less dependent on formal learning.

Intelligence tests measure fluid (innate) abilities, although crystallized (learned) abilities are also measured in many of the instruments. So, a child that has received very little formal instruction or has a learning disability may still score quite high on an IQ test.


These learning difficulties should be considered by the examiner when choosing which IQ tests, therefore it is appropriate for parents to discuss their concerns with an evaluator before the scheduled exams, especially if you are paying for the evaluation. Ultimately, the examiner chooses the test.

If your child has:

ADHD, Anxiety, Dyslexia – needs test with little or no timing

APD, Hearing Impairment, Severe Dyslexia, SLD – needs a nonverbal test

SLD, English as a second language, or little language background due to environment – needs test with little verbal response

ADHD, LD, ASD, ID, behavior disorders – needs test into smaller increments, allowing brief breaks

  • Read about individual intelligence tests to determine the length and construct of the tests to make more informed decisions.

Considerations before Testing

  • Your child needs a good night’s sleep, to be well rested, and calm.
  • Keep discussion of testing to a minimal to alleviate anxiety. I told my children they were going to do some activities that they would enjoy with a friend of mine .
  • Serve him/her a high protein breakfast on the morning of the test to activate the brain.
  • Make sure the environment is distraction free selecting a place with no noise and very little visual stimuli. Often the examiner will set up the testing in their office which is usually OK. Talking, pianos, trains, TVs, radios and other noise makers will easily distract a child and deflate or even invalidate the scores.
  • If more than one test is to be administered, take a drink or light snack for your child in between tests to keep blood sugar from dropping.
  • Some children need to know you are close by, so take a book to read while waiting. You can’t be in the room, but can assure them you are next door.
  • Make sure your child establishes good rapport with the examiner a few minutes before beginning the test. If a child is afraid or nervous with the examiner, he/she will not perform well.

Acronym Key

  1. SLD Speech Language Disorders
  2. ADHD Attention Deficit Disorders
  3. ASD Autism Spectrum Disorder
  4. ID Intellectual Disability
  5. LD Learning Disability